May, Macron to Consider Fining Tech Companies in Terror Fight

  • France, U.K. may legislate to force companies to take action
  • Failure to remove online terror content could incur penalty

May, Macron Consider Fining Tech Firms in Terror Fight

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron plan to lead a joint crackdown on technology companies that fail to remove terrorism-related content, including fines.

Tackling Islamist extremism -- often inspired by videos and images on the Internet -- is a priority for both governments. Britain’s election campaign was interrupted by two deadly attacks in Manchester and London, while more than 200 died in Paris and Nice in 2015 and 2016.

“The U.K. and France will work together to encourage corporations to do more and abide by their social responsibility to step up their efforts to remove harmful content from their networks,” May said in a statement ahead of a visit to Paris on Tuesday, her first overseas trip since the vote. Measures will include “exploring the possibility of creating a new legal liability for tech companies if they fail to remove unacceptable content.”

The move means the U.K. government is considering the introduction of legislation to force Internet giants such as Facebook Inc., Alphabet Inc.’s Google, and Twitter Inc. to improve monitoring of extremist and hate content.

May’s meeting with Macron -- just days before Brexit talks are due to start -- will be part of her bid to convince both her own nation and countries remaining in the European Union she can keep her government afloat after losing her parliamentary majority.

The premier promised to coordinate with other governments to force Internet companies to stop providing “safe spaces” online for extremists. France and the U.K. will work with tech companies them to develop tools to identify and remove harmful material automatically, and push for them to urgently establish the industry-led forum agreed on at the Group of Seven summit.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd will also meet French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb in coming days, according to May’s office. 

The U.K. is already pushing through legislation to force social networks to open up encrypted services such as Facebook’s  WhatsApp Inc. to domestic security forces upon request.

May’s meeting with Macron may include some uncomfortable conversations about future security arrangements.

The new French president suggested in his recent election campaign he would seek to revise the Le Touquet agreement that allows each country to host the other’s border controls. That means those seeking to reach the U.K. illegally through the Channel Tunnel are stopped at Calais, leaving the French authorities to tackle the problems caused by such migrants.

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